Even as Women’s Day celebrations continue, founder of a men’s rights organisation speaks about gender equality and laws, which he feels are skewed in favour of women
Even as International Women’s Day is marked and celebrated on 8th March every year and the party for women continues before and after the women’s day, Vaastav Foundation NGO president, Amit Deshpande (Vaastav is an umbrella body of men’s rights organisations), says that International Men’s Day, marked on November 19 does not have the visibility or marketing acumen of Women’s Day, “but is growing in significance every year.”
Dombivli-based instrumentation engineer Deshpande states that Vaastav Foundation was launched on November 19, 2013, for the different men’s rights groups in Mumbai, the Indian Family Foundation, Borivli; Protect Indian Family Foundation, Mulund; MASHAAL (Mothers And Sisters of Husbands Against Abuse of Law).
Though Vaastav has men’s rights groups under its wing, it is also an avenue for certain women’s forums such as the All India Mother-in-law Protection Forum, where women jailed in false dowry harassment cases and in false domestic violence cases have nowhere to go.
In an atmosphere charged with anger over the spate of sexual harassment cases towards women, Deshpande put the focus on false rape cases, which he says, “are being filed with impunity by some women. False sexual harassment cases affects the women of the wrongly accused as well. This is not women empowerment, but only empowerment of unscrupulous elements,” says the angry engineer with conviction.
EXCEPRTS FROM AN INTERVIEW:
Q. What are the most common complaints your organisation receives?
A. The maximum cases we get are about false dowry harassment and false domestic violence cases. Recently, there has also been a surge in the number of false cases of sexual harassment at workplace. Many men complain of facing abusive marriages, wherein the wife subjects them to domestic violence.
Q. Generally, what is the social strata of the male complainants?
A. There is no general pattern for these cases. People from all sections of society are affected.
Q. What do you do to help these people?
A. Once a case is filed, the biggest problem a man faces is that everyone looks at him with suspicion, he is persecuted at every level of the society — police, judiciary, media. Men need to be heard without judgement. We only provide them with emotional strength to fight the false cases.
Q. Do authorities/police listen to these complaints? Do victims find it difficult to get the police to file an FIR?
A. There is no law under which a man can report an incidence of domestic violence perpetrated by his wife. Usually, victims face ridicule and ostracisation at police stations. If at all the complaint is accepted, it is reported as a non-cognisable offence (NC).
Q. In Indian society, except in a few cases, it is still very much a man’s world…
A. Indian society always had the equilibrium for men and women. If women played the role of caretakers, men played the role of protectors/ providers. In case of natural calamities or wars, it was always assumed that men would protect women and children at all costs. In patriarchy, men had economic dominance, but women had emotional dominance. If a woman tied a string around a man’s wrist and called him her brother, she would get a protector for herself who was supposed to give his life for her safety. It never was only a man’s world as it is made out to be.
Q. Men are raping and molesting women, women are not harassing men…
A. It is a myth that women are not harassing men. Men get raped and sexually harassed, groped just as women do. We, as a society, need to wake up to reality. On December 4, 2012, the Cabinet cleared the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2010 which had made rape gender-neutral which means rape victims as well as perpetrators could be men or women. The Delhi rape case happened and the government brought the ordinance for rape law which still kept rape gender neutral. Later, some organisations protested and forced the government to make rape law gender biased.
Q. What about the Delhi rape case?
A. We sympathise with victims of all genders and all crimes, but we need to understand that most rape cases are sexual liaisons gone awry. If a couple has intercourse before marriage and the boy breaks the relationship then the female can file a rape case, which happens in most cases of rape complaints. This is also how in 98 per cent of the rape cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim.
Q. The Shakti Mills case?
A. Our society progresses upon creating competition between men. A man is judged by his manhood by being a protector/provider which he has to prove to be accepted as a real man. This concept also creates the ‘waste’ of the society who lose out in this competition. Such people live on the fringes of society and have their own dark alleys. The tea-vendor outside Shakti Mills said he is selling tea since past 15 years there but never had the courage to enter inside. This tells us that there are certain areas which are out of reach for both men and women. Until we stop measuring men based upon their achievements only, unfortunately such alleys will continue to exist. Shakti Mills case was one such incident.
Q. We still have a way to go before men and women are considered equals — gender statistics show this…
A. I disagree, which statistics show this? Every year, twice as many men commit suicide in India as compared to women. In our cities, more females are graduating from universities as compared to males. In industrial hazardous risks, it is 100 per cent male exposure. I can provide sources for all this data. The future is about gender equality in the true sense. It no longer can be accepted that one section keeps the rights and the other keeps responsibilities. It has to be divided equally.
This interview was published in Mid-Day on 09-Mar-2014.